The automotive/car industry cannot escape the imagery that has been stored in our minds as a masculine discipline. It is seen as a highly technical, hard and industrial environment that only men can endure. An environment men thrive in by default as it has been a space that has been created for their true first love, their car. It is easy to walk into an auto repair garage and feel intimidated as a female. I mean, this is where men have conditioned us to believe that this is definitely not a space for women. When you speak to women who have either accompanied a partner, have gone to purchase a vehicle or have gone to take in their car for an annual service, you find that they feel unwelcome. That is at a consumer level, an outsiders view inside the machine. Then there are the women who work in the automotive industry, in roles previously and exclusively occupied by men. We spoke to one of those women, Kamo Maaba, a Qualified Motor Mechanic/Technician.
What encouraged you to get into the motor industry as technical staff?
I am from Limpopo, from a small village called Tafelkop. My love for cars is from a young age. My dad used to fix cars and the fact that he used to tell me that’s not for girls made me want to try to fix cars.
What has been your academic or work journey been to get you to where you are now?
I went to a technical high school and did motor. After Matric (Grade 12) I then studied and completed my N6 Mechanical Engineering from Tshwane South College. I then did my practice/apprenticeship with Audi. After completing my practical, I did my Trade Test (Motor Mechanic and Auto Electrician). Because I am very inquisitive, I was given an opportunity to become Service Advisor for Audi and VW (Volkswagen). That’s were I learnt to communicate better and got a better understanding of both the workshop environment and customer facing environment of a motor dealership. I further understood the value in customers paying for vehicle repairs as I was in a position to make them understand the price and the value of the repair as a Service Advisor.
As a woman in an industry currently dominated by men, how do you stay encouraged?
It definitely is not an easy road where you need to tell men what to do and when to do it. I’ve learn a lot, come to think of it. We are the doctors of cars. People trust us with their assets, their cars that can be worth over a million. This industry is growing and women are more than welcome to be anything they want. Fixing cars looks hard and yes, it’s hard at first. Like anything else. Eventually it became easy. Getting your hands dirty is not something new when it comes to women, it’s worth it. The journey was not easy but anyone can do it.
What encourages you and what now for your career?
Let ‘s be strong emotionally and physically. That takes time and a lot of practise. I have had my own challenges in my personal life, but I always try to keep a positive vibe and give people a positive feeling. For now I am working for another automotive company (out of my comfort zone), new brand, but as they say cars remain the same. I’m working as a technical specialist and still learning every single day.
Kamo Maabo not only gives us the feeling of being inclusive, but debunks the concept that there is no place for women as gatekeepers for cars. She simplifies a system that is geared at her male counterparts, but also makes it very clear that nothing is easy. We appreciate her as a women in automotive and as one of the voices that speaks with the collective. ‘Girls with cars’ is not just a bumper sticker for her, it’s a lifestyle.
We are proud of the role women play in all areas of society. Do you know a woman that is in automotive that you feel would like to be a part of our community, or would you like to be a contributor on your experiences? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.